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Gautam Khaitan relies on Italian choppergate verdict arguing for bail

OP Khaitan & Co managing partner Gautam Khaitan, arrested in a money laundering case related to the AgustaWestland chopper deal, yesterday told a Delhi court that two accused in the deal were acquitted of corruption charges by an Italian court and sought bail on this fresh ground.

In his fresh plea, represented by senior counsel Sidharth Luthra and PV Kapur, Khaitan told the court that in a similar case, the Italian court has passed a verdict exonerating accused of charges of bribery and corruption in India and in this view, the ED’s allegation that he had received kickbacks now stands “eroded”.

The Italian court on 9 October acquitted former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini of corruption charges in the chopper deal with India.

They, however, were sentenced to two-year jail terms on lesser charges of falsification of invoices.

The Central Bureau of Investigation special judge V K Gupta, who was scheduled to pass order Monday after hearing the fresh bail application of Khaitan, posted it for 15 October.

The court also asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to file reply on the application.

ED had earlier countered the bail plea of Khaitan, saying that he was actively involved in the activities connected with the proceeds of crime.

Khaitan, who was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, was arrested a day after the agency conducted a search of his premises 22 September.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from British firm AgustaWestland came under scrutiny after Italian authorities alleged that a bribe had been paid by the company to clinch the deal with India inked in February 2010.

India on 1 January terminated the Rs 3,600 crore (about $770m) deal with AgustaWestland for the purchase of the choppers following allegations of kickbacks having been paid to fix the deal.

India had paid around 45 percent of the total contract value for the choppers which were meant to ferry the president, the prime minister and other VIPs.

The ED had registered a case in this deal in July 2013 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and booked former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, foreign nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, companies like AgustaWestland, its parent company Italy-based Finmeccanica, Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix as well as two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, a few other firms and unknown persons in its criminal complaint.

Twenty-one entities have been named by the ED in the case.

A separate case was lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation March 2013 against Tyagi and others in connection with the kickback allegations.

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